International effort regains control of Limassol wildfire

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After reigniting, the fire in the foothills of the Limassol mountains is completely under control with no active front, while firefighting forces on Tuesday launched pre-emptive water drops with the help of Greece, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

The wildfire burned up to 10 square kilometres, with the firefront encompassing the villages of Paramytha, Apaisia, Apsiou, and Fasoula.

Damage to several properties has been reported, but no loss of human lives.

Jordanian reinforcements assist the preventive efforts while two Israeli Air Tractor craft are also expected to participate for the first time.

Two helicopters from Lebanon are also on the island and are on standby.

In comments to media from the coordination centre in Paramytha, Limassol, Fire Department spokesperson Andreas Kettis said two Greek Canadair planes were facing a “minor technical issue” after arriving on Monday.

“As the fire was in remission and there were aerial means that could handle it at the given moment, for safety reasons, it was preferred not to launch them on Monday”, said Kettis.

He added that they will be flying on Tuesday.

Israel’s Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the wildfire site, where he met with Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou.

Procopiou thanked Israel’s National Security Minister on behalf of the Cypriot government for the country’s response to the island’s call for aid.

“Discussions at the political level for coordination and improvement of cooperation at the operational-coordinating level, but also for strengthening cooperation with Israel around other issues, related to public order and security, are ongoing”.

Procopiou said the electricity authority had responded promptly to restore power to most affected areas immediately.

Ben-Gvir said: “It is no secret that we love Cyprus very much,” while expressing the belief that the partnership between the two countries will become stronger as time goes by.

The massive Limassol wildfire was brought under control on Monday, with authorities informing evacuees that they could return home, as the fire was stopped just metres away from the village of Apsiou.

According to Limassol district officer Marios Alexandrou, in Apesia, an unused house was destroyed, and a warehouse and two immobilized vehicles.

In Paramytha, a building was destroyed, a dog shelter suffered minor damage, and a few immobilized vehicles were burned.

In Apsiou, a holiday house was burnt to the ground, along with two livestock farms and small warehouses.

Cyprus activated the EU’s civil protection mechanism by requesting assistance from regional countries, including Jordan.

Cyprus’ wildfire risk is at its highest, following above-average scorching summer temperatures creating tinder-dry conditions.

The recent fire was the largest one recorded this year, bringing back memories of the deadly fire in 2021, again in the mountainous area of Limassol.

The huge blaze on July 3, 2021 – which started in the Limassol village of Arakapas – burnt over 55 square km of forest land, homes, and properties.

It also claimed the lives of four farm workers from Egypt.

July was the hottest month ever recorded in Cyprus, with the longest heatwave lasting 16 days with temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius plus.